Dakota History in the Faribault Region

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Chief Hushasha of the Wahpekute Dakota in front of his tipi while imprisoned at Fort Snelling, Minnesota in 1862, after the Great Sioux Uprising of 1862 (Dakota War).

The Wahpekute Dakota were the original occupants of the region around Faribault, along with some of their Mdewakanton Dakota relatives.1  Minnesota itself comes from the Dakota word for Mni Sota, the waters that reflects the sky.  The main Wahpekute village was situated along the northwest shore of Medatepetonka, "Lake of the Big Village,"  now known as Cannon Lake.

The Wahpekute lived in a peaceable alliance with the other six peoples that make up the the Oceti Sakowin, the Lakota/Dakota Sioux, but competition for lands and resources stepped up with westward migration by Ojibwe from the shores of Lake Superior, bearing French firearms and exacerbated by the United States. With time, many of the Lakota/Dakota moved into what is now South Dakota and Nebraska, while the remaining communities settled in southern Minnesota, northern Iowa and eastern Wisconsin.  After the Dakota-U.S. War of 1862, the vast majority of Dakota were forcibly exiled outside Minnesota, though always maintaining connection to their homelands.  Today, the Prairie Island Indian Community near the mouth of the Cannon in Red Wing, is the nearest Dakota nation. 

  1. Faribault Heritage Preservation Commission, “Timeline,” accessed 20 April, 2013, http://www.faribault.org/history/Timeline.htm.

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  8. Access Genealogy, “Wahpekute Indian Tribe History,” accessed 20 April, 2013, http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/tribes/siouan/wahpekutehist.htm. 


Minnesota Historical Society plaque outside the Cathedral of Our Merciful Savior that recognizes the partnership of Rev. Henry Benjamin Whipple with Native Minnesotans and his efforts to secure their rights through "the reform of U.S. Indian policies and an active Indian mission program.

As word spread that 303 Dakota would be executed in retaliation for the War of 1862, Bishop Whipple sought to persuade President Lincoln to prevent the executions. Lincoln commuted the death sentences for all but thirty-eight. Still, the execution of the 38 at Mankato in December 1862 -- the largest mass execution in U.S. history -- and the use of body parts of the executed for research, remain a powerful memory of injustice.